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RAGBRAI

July 23, 2012

Schultz: Ride winds into nostalgic places

CHEROKEE — There have been numerous warnings about excess heat on this year’s RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa), and the riders seemed to take notice.

In my eight years of doing the ride, I never saw more riders on the road in the early hours than Sunday.

Sunday’s route was a relatively easy 54.4-mile journey from Sioux Center to Cherokee and included a stop in Orange City, home of my alma mater.

But let me not get ahead of myself.

My bus got to Sioux Center early Saturday afternoon and, after setting up my tent cot, I decided to visit the Bike Expo. While there I got something to eat and drink and within a half hour met people doing the ride from Alaska, Massachusetts and Utah. It’s amazing the mass appeal of RAGBRAI!

It was also interesting to camp near the track where I once competed while running at Northwestern College. The meet was hosted by Dordt College and marked the one, and only, time I ran a 10-kilometer race on a track. For those of you metrically challenged (which I am, for the most part), that’s 25 laps.

Now I am one of the bigger track and field fans you’ll ever meet and I fared well in many 10K road races back in those days. But running a 10K on a track should be deemed illegal (cruel and unusual boredom for those running it).

Anyway, around 2 a.m. in my tent cot I was awakened by lightning off to the north. This eventually drew closer, producing something many of us haven’t seen in a long time … rain. Although it didn’t produce a lot of moisture, it was still refreshing and stopped by the time I left camp.

As touched on earlier, even though I left at my usual 5:45 a.m., the 11-mile ride to Orange City was incredibly busy for the early morning … people trying to beat the heat.

From the moment we rode into town, it was quite evident Orange City is quite proud of its Dutch heritage (OK, this appears to be a huge window for me to quote Nigel Powers in “Austin Powers in Goldmember” but I won’t since I’m relatively fond of the Dutch).

Riders were greeted by several volunteers dressed in traditional Dutch costumes and being greeted by a man speaking the language. From windmills to wooden shoes, it was all there in downtown Orange City.

I had a lot of fun roaming around the downtown area and seeing things I hadn’t seen since my college days in Orange City. Also at that time I got a chance to catch up with Ann (Vander Kooi) Minnick, who graduated with me and is now a professor at Northwestern.

Then it was a few blocks south to Northwestern, where I had a wonderful time touring the campus and seeing what is still the same (very little) and what has changed (pretty much everything).

From there it was a combined 12 miles to Alton and Granville, a trip where I talked to a guy hauling his own luggage. It weighed about 80 pounds, he guessed, but he wasn’t stressing since he did the same thing on a two-month bicycle trip across the country that he recently concluded.

Shortly after leaving Granville, we turned south and were welcomed by a pretty strong headwind. That was a tough 15 miles to Marcus, but I passed much of the time talking to a mail carrier from Grand Rapids, Mich.

It was also during this time that a sign proclaimed we were entering Cherokee County. I’m suspecting I’m not the only one who burst into the old Paul Revere & the Raiders song, only switching the lyrics from “people” to “county.”

Once in Marcus (pronounced Moy-cus by Curly from the Three Stooges, I’d suspect) I took a well-deserved break. It was at that time I met two men from Finland who are on their third RAGBRAI.

After introducing myself, the one jokingly introduced himself as a psychologist and the other as his patient. It was awesome talking to these guys and how much they love Iowa and RAGBRAI (plus other things, like no matter where you are in the world, the economy is struggling).

From there it was about 18 miles to Cherokee, our overnight stop. As I type this I am seeing many people still rolling in for the day. Hopefully everyone stays hydrated and safe.

Ted Schultz, of Grinnell, served as the Clinton Herald’s sports editor from 1995 to 2007. Catch his column this week in the Herald and at clintonherald.com.

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